Could 2012 Be the Year of the Controversial Call?

By Akiem Balium- Host of 10 Minutes on the Clock on The Real Sports Talk Network, and Blogger for TRST’s the Sports Realist. Follow Akiem on Twitter @Li495Akiem

Remember last year when the NFL was engaged in a battle of wits with the NFL’s Players Association over the terms of a new CBA that led to a lockout that nearly threatened the start of the preseason? Of course, eventually, a new 10-year collective bargaining agreement was reached & the Players and League won’t be doing this dance for presumably the next decade.

What didn’t get covered much during the offseason was that the league is engaged in yet another collective bargaining tango—this time with its referees. While the USA was fixated on all-things NBA and Olympics, the league was dealing with this problem and still is. The refs have said on numerous occasions that they want to negotiate. Recently, the NFL announced that the replacement officials we have seen a lot of during this preseason shall indeed be present for Week 1 of the NFL season.

This can be seen as yet another negotiating ploy on behalf of the league. But what the refs can also do is use this to their advantage. Roger Goodell does not look any better here than he did last year when he and his henchme…uh….owners tried to bully DeMaurice Smith and the players in agreeing to an 18 game regular season.

Officials can have as much influence on NFL games as they do in basketball, soccer, or hockey games because of the common borderline nature of calls & the complexity of the NFL’s rules. There’s a reason why Ed Hochuli goes into great detail when deciding on calls that can go either way.

But this time (and possibly this year) controversial decisions from officials now will be looked at two fold. Of course, we’ll be looking at them from the stand point of how the official got the call wrong. But, every challenge by a coach or critical comment by a player is also a shot at the league itself.

The only good thing that has come out of this snafu is that it has led to the firstfemale referee to officiate an NFL game. But, outside of this landmark achievement, fans, the media, and players are already blowing their respective whistles by calling BS on the commissioner.

The owners don’t know this, but sooner than later they’ll be doing the same thing. Behind closed doors of course as to keep up the image of a united front against the NFLRA, but they’ll be doing so as well. What if the first controversial call happens against…say….the Cowboys and Jerry Jones—on the Thursday Night Football opener at MetLife Stadium vs. the rival Giants. I bet you all of the money he poured into his theme-park of a megapalace in Arlington, Texas that he’ll be spewing four-letter words about the “scab refs” in his office in the greater DFDub.

It tempts me to want to give these referees a chance. After all, there’s a huge difference between the preseason and the real thing. But, the impressive credentials of some of the “scab refs” include that they officiated games…in the Lingerie Football League.

Huh? Come Again!

Those refs are probably more qualified to be photographers for Playboy magazine given what that “league” is all about. The LFL tries to sell us on the idea that they’re “all about football” when in truth it’s only about 25% gridiron. The other 75% is T&A and I say that’s even a conservative estimate. Most of the ladies in the LFL only use it as a platform to enhance their opportunity of landing a major modeling coup. Yeah, Alex Morgan, Lindsey Vonn, and Destinee Hooker did so too. But, at least they’re athletes first and sex symbols second.

Back to the NFL, though. Saying that you have credentials to officiate NFL games becauseyou were in the Lingerie Football League is like saying you have presidential credentials because you served 3 years as a school superintendent. It’s going from Class-A ball into the big leagues overnight and skipping “Go” twice.

With the season only a week away, some will say that any potential embarrassment these officials cause to outcomes of games will be the original zebras’ fault for trying to make the league look bad. But, the longer the owners of the NFL continue to show arrogance as they did with the players for much of last year,they will be the ones to look bad all around.

Even though I’m sure the NFLRA wishes nothing but good luck to the replacement referees for the time (hopefully short, save the female) that they’re calling games in the league’s regular season, they know something. They know that ultimately, one(or a few of them) will blow it one too many times. The NFL will continue to look worse and worse and worse as more bad calls get noticed.

Plus, as we all know, the NFL is a sprint instead of the marathons of baseball and basketball. One blown call can be the difference between postseason & offseason. One blown call can be the difference between a season that didn’t meet expectations and a Super Bowl.

The extremely ironic part about it is even when one of the replacement referees blows a call(and if the preseason is any indication, the first major blown call is only a flea-flicker away), the NFL will still take action against criticism by players and coaches. They’ll still be fined for criticizing the scab refs as they do with the real refs. This would make the league look totally incompetent because then they’d be treating these replacement officials as if they were permanent replacements instead of temporary. Also, these replacement zebras will tell you that even they didn’t ask to be put in this position. Sure, they appreciate the opportunity to call games on this stage and the prestige (celebrity) that comes with it—just not in this unusual fashion.

Let’s face it, even the original referees make mistakes sometimes. We know it and so do they. These referees won’t get every call correct. There are moments like the Immaculate Reception or when the Tuck Rule was invoked in the Patriots/Raiders playoff game a decade ago that make you wonder (in a tongue-in-cheek fashion,of course) if the league would be better off with new officials.

One of my favorite shows on NFL Network is “NFL’s Top 10”. One of their Top 10 seriesfeatures what they ranked as the ten most controversial calls in NFL history. The Tuck Rule & Immaculate Reception are ranked #2 and #1, respectively. If the league doesn’t kiss & make up with its referees soon, Los Angeles (where NFL Network is based) might be adding a game or two from this year to that controversial calls Top 10 .

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Posted on August 31, 2012, in NFL and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.

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